Monday, July 12, 2010

Too Many Drownings in Beautiful Ontario

It takes 7 seconds for children to start asphyxiating (during drowning), and as the interviewed expert on Global News pointed out, that's brain damage. That is considered the upside of drowning, preferable to dying, which can happen in 20 seconds. Silently. But I can tell you, the upside -- recovering from brain damage -- never ends and is no picnic.

Going in the water with little or no swimming skills is a bad idea.

Yet even the threat of death doesn't seem to deter people from that cooling plunge when they don't know how to swim well. Or to get adults to use their noggins when letting their non-swimming kids near the water. Or to stop our politicians every year when they threaten to close school pools for lack of money. Money trumps life.

I am astounded at the number of drownings and near-drownings we've had in the last week or so in Ontario. And I wonder how many are because of immigrants coming here from places where water bodies, artificial or natural, aren't everywhere, like here. I didn't know how to swim when we immigrated here -- I had only ever seen the ocean once in all my life. But the first thing my parents did when we were gifted with 2 weeks of cottage time was to enrol me in swimming lessons. I didn't attend a school with a pool until grade 7, which is why my parents ensured I continued to take swimming lessons every summer. But not all parents are that responsible.

I don't know what the answer is to prevent drownings when the summer is hot and humid and that pool or lake is so inviting, so deceptively calm. But I think it begins with education. Maybe public service announcements at the start of summer and during the hot months. Perhaps schools spending time educating parents as to the importance of swimming lessons for both them and their children and where and how to take them affordably. Perhaps we need better signage near lakes, especially where rip tides or strong currents are present. As a society, we won't be able to eliminate all drownings, but we really need to step up efforts to prevent them, even the near-drownings.

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